LOUISVILLE, Ky. – It was an early wake-up call for the “Old Gold and Black” Wednesday morning.
Purdue practiced at 9 a.m. at the KFC Yum! Center ahead of Thursday’s match-up with Tennessee in an NCAA South Region semi-final.
The Boilermakers dominated Villanova on the way to their third straight Sweet 16. They’re looking to build off the momentum of a 26-point win over the defending national champions.
“It’s great to get a win like that,” said sophomore center Matt Haarms. “Coach Paint told us you have to be able to shake off a loss, but you also have to be able to shake off a win. We shot amazing that game. That doesn’t mean the ball is going to go in against Tennessee. Even if the ball’s not going to go in, we have to be ready to lock down and win a game.”
“You want to have the win and be able to enjoy the win,” head coach Matt Painter said. “It’s life. You want to enjoy the win, but then 36 hours later you want to get back to work, stay grounded and understand the next opponent is going to be very good also.”
“Any of these games could potentially be my last game,” said senior guard Ryan Cline. “I’m thankful we’re in the Sweet 16 and we have another chance against Tennessee.”
Despite the early wake-up call and high stakes in Thursday’s game, the Boilers looked alert and relaxed during practice. Junior star Carsen Edwards even autographed freshman guard Eric Hunter’s leg as part of a running joke.
“It’s just something we do all the time,” said Hunter. “Just messing around. Trying to keep loose. It’s just funny.”
“We just mess with him,” Edwards said. “It’s an insider with him with like a few of us on the team, Nojel [Eastern], Aaron [Wheeler], Tre[vion Williams]. We kind of mess with Eric about stuff like that. It’s just an insider with us, but it’s hilarious.”
“It’s the way we just clown with each other like that,” said sophomore guard Eastern. “You can’t really change stuff like that. That’s just stuff we’ve been doing all season. We’re still doing it and we have a game that if we lose, we go home.”
The Boilers are aiming for their first trip to the Elite Eight since 2000. They’d play the winner of the South’s second regional semifinal between Virginia and Oregon.
The Cavaliers are led by Lawrence Central product and 2016 Indiana Mr. Basketball, Kyle Guy. He said he was serious about Purdue before committing to Virginia.
“I loved Purdue,” Guy said. “I got up there a lot to visit. I loved Coach Painter. I had a lot of AAU teammates that went there, so there was a lot of pull to go there.”